WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The school system has released a statement two days after attorneys announced they were pursuing a class action lawsuit against New Hanover County Schools to get justice for the victims of former teacher Michael Kelly.
New Hanover County Board of Education Chairman Lisa Estep released the following statement on behalf of the board Thursday evening at 4:58 p.m.
“While it is not appropriate to comment specifically on pending litigation, the Board takes all allegations of this nature seriously. The Board will file a response to the Complaint at the appropriate time. The Board expresses sympathy for any student who may have been harmed by Michael Kelly.”
Attorneys Jim Lea, Ryan Schultz, Joel Rhine and Martin Ramey filed suit against New Hanover County Schools Tuesday. Though they hope they can proceed with the lawsuit as a class action, a judge will make the final decision.
If the suit moves forward as a class action, all of Kelly’s victims, including those who have yet to come forward, could get compensation.
The attorneys also want to see major changes in the leadership at NHCS. Long-time school leader Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday abruptly announced his retirement less than a week after Kelly’s guilty plea. A number of students and parents had come forward to say Holliday was aware of Kelly’s behavior more than a decade before he was finally arrested, but did nothing.
Kelly pleaded guilty to 59 charges on June 25, including sexual exploitation of minor, indecent liberties with a student and indecent liberties with a child, and was sentenced to spend 17-31 years in prison for his crimes. Many of the crimes occurred on school grounds. Kelly was Teacher of the Year at Isaac Bear Early College High School. Before that, he taught science at Laney High School.